Michelle Peñaloza’s ambitious and remarkable debut searches for a place to anchor in spite of a rancorous world where we might have “began as crumbs ferried in the beak of waxwings.” These poems read mythic yet contemporary in their burst of bloom-song and bright blood stroke. The result is electric—giving us a kind of poetry more alive, more filled with lava and lyric. Of this I am certain: I’ll be celebrating this poet for many years to come."
— Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Author of Lucky Fish and Oceanic
Michelle Peñaloza’s first collection of poems, Former Possessions of the Spanish Empire, is filled with so much care and kapwa, a deep understanding of shared humanity, between generations of Filipina women and girls -- the granddaughter plucking her lola’s gray hairs, witnessing the aging, failing body with so much warmth and compassion, the daughter who knows her mother’s voice so well, that she inhabits it. Peñaloza’s poems are grounded in details, textures, and aromas, rose petals, coffee, garlic, smoothed rosary beads, old prayer books, the tangle of mangrove roots. This is an emotionally complex work, in which grief, and immigrant, diasporic confusion and rage are handled with so much wisdom. I love this book.
—Barbara Jane Reyes, Author of Poeta en San Francisco and Invocation to Daughters